Squash Blossoms- Male or Female?

Squash Blossoms!

The squash are bloom. I spotted the first flowers on my squash plants just before the heatwave hit. Since then I’ve been scurrying around trying to keep the gardens watered and the cold season crops alive. The squash sailed through the heat event with very little trouble at all. I think there was a bet of heat damage to one or two leaves of one of the plants. Other than that the extra water seems to have kept them going strong and they are blooming like mad now. Send us pictures if you have them!

Squash has big golden orange blossoms that are both beautiful and delicious. Yes, delicious. Squash blossoms are one of the garden’s bonus treats. Squash plants have both male and female flowers. The males bloom earlier and are usually more abundant so it is perfectly okay to harvest a few of the early male blooms to make a seasonal treat.

A quick internet search brings up dozens of recipes and mouth watering images. There are many squash blossom dishes, simple to elegant, to suit your cooking skills and taste for food adventure.

At first glance all squash blossoms are just big, showy, orange flowers but it’s actually quite easy to tell the males and females apart. Aside from the early blooming clue, male flowers have thin stems that join the blossom without any intermediate form. They also have a single centre bit where female flowers have a more complicated multi segmented centre. The really obvious difference is the small squash embryo at the base of the female flower where it meets the stem. Once you take a good look at the flowers the differences are obvious.

So go ahead and pluck a few of the male blossoms and try one of the recipes you can find online. Share your favourites with us. We’re growing in order to eat after all and finding ways to use the bonuses the garden provides is part of the fun.

If your squash is still small, has yellowing leaves, or otherwise doesn’t look like it’s thriving, and is trying to flower anyway, you may need to pick those flowers off and give it a big fertility boost. Top dress each plant with half a bag of steer manure or mushroom compost; or give it a shot of liquid fish emulsion, seaweed, or aerated compost tea.

Check your plant spacing too. I’ve been recommending a 4’ spacing or around 16 sq.ft . (4’x4’) of space for each plant but other sources recommend up to 6’x6’ for each plant and, honestly, I’ve had my best harvests when I have unintentionally given them more space. In this heat the wider spacing is better as it gives the squash a chance to spread out to get water and nutrients from a larger area. (I’m talking about winter squash and pumpkin here. Zucchini and other summer squash will do fine with 3’x3’ spacing.)

If you’ve got them planted too close you may want to remove every second plant. You will get just as much squash from one plant that has adequate room to spread out as you will from 3 crowded ones. If you don’t want to lose all the productivity of that space while your plants are small plant something else in between the squash. Beans and corn are the classic companions for squash. It’s not too late to plant either of these. Look for varieties that are 55-65 days to harvest and you will still be able to get a crop by late August or early September.